How to Make Marketing Yourself on Social Media Less Overwhelming

As a marketing professional, I often hear jazz musicians struggle with the idea of self-promotion, especially on social media. Not only is there a lot of stigma related to social media, but getting involved often feels overwhelming, for its learning curve as well as its time commitment. But all of those challenges have been "cracked" by so many great brands and businesses, and each of those models can be applied to marketing in jazz, for both artists and educators. Part of a multi-part marketing article series, these tips are meant to empower you to jumpstart your marketing so that you have more time and energy to do what you love to do – make jazz!

 

1. Get comfortable with self-promotion

First you have to get into the mindset of being okay with self-promotion. Many artists tend to become shy and uncomfortable with talking about themselves. But it is crucial to think through the thoughts and feelings that lead to this discomfort, and accept marketing as an important part of a well-rounded career. Self-promotion is not a "dirty" phrase and there is no implied egocentric activity with creating awareness of your music, your brand, and your love for jazz. Marketing yourself is actually more about developing a relationship with your fans and creating a dialogue about jazz and the things that are important to you. As you'll read below, there are many dimensions to developing your brand online, which do not revolve around the typical self-promotion as we know it.

 

2. Embrace a 2-way dialogue with fans

 

The next concern artists may have is "I don't know what to post about. How many ways are there to tell people to come to my shows or buy my albums?" One major way that social media has changed marketing, especially in music, is that artists are now able to create a dialogue with their fans in a meaningful way. The benefit of this is being able to create relationships with fans, which encourages them to actually buy records, attend shows, etc. The accompanying challenge is that artists have to think deeper about what kinds of messages to post. In general, the golden rule is – post things on social media that you would say at a cocktail party. So, just like you wouldn't go up to people at a cocktail party (whether friends or strangers), and ONLY talk about your upcoming show, you wouldn't do that online, either. But – you would ask them questions, find ways to get to know them, and reply back to their thoughts. Apply this mode of thinking to your posts online – ask people how they first got into jazz. Or if they are seeing any great shows this weekend. Or if they have a new favorite album they can recommend. This takes a huge burden off you to come up with new content and helps fans feel closer to you.

 

3. Identify the topics that are important to you

 

Another way to combat the "what should I post?" blues is taking an inventory of all the things that make you who you are, specifically the "you" as a public brand. Understanding the key components of your brand is the one thing that keeps social media profiles from turning into the dreaded "look what I had for breakfast"-style unrelated messaging. That is a stigma left over from the early days of social media because social media today is about so much more than that. Were you influenced by specific people or artists? Share it! Are you obsessed with Ella Fitzgerald? Share it! Do you have a favorite local jazz club that you visit often? Share it! Do you have an interesting method of warming up your voice? Share it! Do you have strong opinions about music education? Share it! Did you just buy a great piece of gear? Share it! In my next article, I will provide a list of sample topics that you can customize and use as potential posts. Meanwhile, I suggest making a "mind map" by just jotting down the topics that mean the most to you. You'll see that there is so much you can discuss your fans.

 

4. Promote your friends

 

Running your social media accounts doesn’t mean that you can only promote yourself and your music. Try to make a conscious effort to promote your friends, partners, and fellow musicians, as a way to build good will among your peers and greater value among your fans. Did you just see someone great perform last night? Post about it. Did your friend release a new album? Link to it. Did your mentor get nominated for a GRAMMY? Tell us all about it! Did one of your students just get a scholarship to a great school? Congratulate them publicly! Remember: always be sure to link back to their social media profiles, so you can share your shout-out with them.

 

5. Be willing to give things away for free

Before you "egg" my car for suggesting this, please hear me out. Giving things away for free develops trust between you and your current fans and removes a barrier for gathering new fans. This is a controversial methodology, as it is still a topic of discussion within the music industry and especially jazz. Yes, artists make their money through selling music and performing at shows. But we forget that sometimes it takes offering something up, to allow people to get a taste of your music, in exchange for developing a strong relationship and emotional connection with you as an artist. Giving things away comes in many forms and I'm certainly not suggesting giving away the farm. But I do see a lot of artists guarding every second of their music, which can limit their promotion potential. Some ideas on giving away your music in order to sell more of it (or sell show tickets, or get booked more, etc): record an off-album song as a giveaway, in exchange for getting people to sign up on your mailing list; film an acoustic version of one of your songs or a cover; film a short behind the scenes of a rehearsal; write down one of your practice techniques and post it on your website…  The possibilities are endless. And I can suggest this with confidence because this model works so well in the business world as well as in other parts of the music industry.

 

6. Make social media scheduling programs your best friend

 

When you have determined the mix of topics, messages, and images/videos that you want to promote, everything is made exponentially easier by taking some time to schedule your messaging. My favorite resources to use are Hootsuite and Buffer – both of which offer free scheduling mechanisms for Twitter and Facebook, so you can input all your messages and set them to be released throughout the week. For Instagram, the best I've found is Latergramme. Taking one hour at the beginning of the week to load in all your posts is a huge load off your mind. But – the major caveat for this is that you can't just "set it and forget it." This method should be supplemented with setting alerts when people interact with you. Turn the notifications mechanisms on so that you can see when people comment on your posts, so that you may reply back immediately or within the next 12 hours. Be sure to answer any questions, reply to any relevant comments, and hit "like" on all Facebook comments. There can be some great networking that can come out of this kind of interaction, so be sure you use it to its fullest potential.

 

7. Pick your favorite social networks

 

There are many social networks out there and trying to be everything to everyone, everywhere, can take up a lot of time, especially when you don't have someone doing your marketing for you. So take it slow and pick the networks that feel right for you. First – definitely register your name on all networks, so they are there when you are ready for them. Then, think of what comes most naturally to you… Do you take pictures everywhere you go? Dedicate your time to Instagram. Do you enjoy short, concrete thoughts? Try Twitter. Does the Facebook interface feel most natural to you? Focus on that! It's better to build an audience on one network and be able to post every day, instead of trying to post on all networks, becoming overwhelmed, and not posting at all.

 

8. Enlist help from unlikely sources

 

Marketing is an important part of your musical success, but one person can only do so much. If you are lucky enough to have a team that includes a marketing person, or have a budget that allows hiring a marketing person, great! But these resources may not always be available… so the next best thing is to enlist help from those around you. Does your spouse attend every one of your shows? Task him or her with taking photos of you backstage. Do you have a friend that is a great videographer? Ask if she can film a clip during one of your shows. Is your drummer sitting out for one of the songs? Have him snap a photo of you from the stage. Is there a studio assistant to help with a recording session? Have her take some behind-the-scenes shots and interviews. Help is all around us and there's no shame in asking those who are invested in our success to give us a hand.

 

Remember: the most unique aspect of jazz is the community that we are all so fortunate to be part of. The goal with social media is to recreate this community online, with your friends, fans, and fellow jazz lovers. When you think of marketing in this way, suddenly, everything will become far less overwhelming and you'll find yourself achieving the very goals you didn't think social media could help you achieve.

Why I hate the word "talent" and why I'm not alone.

I was a sophomore in college when my saxophone professor told me, “Your natural talent has run out. Time to get to work.” Then threw me out of my private lesson. He told me that he wouldn’t admit to anyone that I was his student until I committed to working more.

 

I’d like to tell you that was a major turning point for me, but unfortunately it wasn’t. Although I knew I needed to “get to work,” I really didn’t have any idea how to do that. Music had come pretty easy to me up until that point and they only hard work I had done was for auditions.

 

I had no idea how to maintain hard work on a regular basis. I stepped it up enough for my professor to admit I was his student again and make it through a couple more semesters of college, but I eventually dropped out, walking away from a full-ride academic scholarship. Eventually, I learned the intrinsic details of what “getting to work” really meant, and I accomplished all of the goals I had set out for myself. [Link to your story article]

 

The word “talented” is thrown around a lot. It’s a catch-all explanation used to explain why someone can do something well - whether it be sports, music, acting, writing, etc. But that word has always rubbed me the wrong way.

 

What bothers me is that the word implies a lack of effort, a gift that was given - that some people got but others didn’t.

 

What the world fails to capture is the hard work that goes into achieving that “talented” label. I can guarantee you that there isn’t a professional athlete, musician, actor, teacher, artist, etc that hasn’t worked hard at their craft, no matter how much or how little talent that may have started out with.

 

Unfortunately, as fans or observers, we rarely get the opportunity to see the behind scenes work, only the final product. That’s where “You’re so talented” can be detrimental to a person’s growth.

 

When people hear me play, I inevitably get the compliment “You’re so talented” often followed by “I could never do that.” I know they mean well and that in their minds, talented is the right word. I smile and say Thank You, but inside I cringe. Because I work really hard to do this and using the word talented makes it sounds like I didn’t. Some people assume that I woke up one day, picked up a saxophone, and could play at this level. And that they can’t.

 

Which of these thoughts can you relate to?

 

  1. If you are “talented,” you are inadvertently told that being talented is enough and that it will get you where you want to go.

  2. If you aren’t “talented,” you are constantly reminded that you weren’t given the gift.

  3. If you worked really hard to do something and someone says “You’re so talented” you feel a bit jilted because it doesn’t account for all the work you have put in.

  4. If you haven’t worked hard and someone says “You’re so talented,” you feel undeserving because you know you didn’t earn it.

 

 

 

I recently saw this Instagram post by Edutopia - http://www.edutopia.org/ that offered alternatives to the saying “You’re so smart” to children. As soon as I saw it, I knew that it would be beneficial to create alternative to “You’re so talented” for parents, teachers, and fans to use when they talk to musicians and music students of all ages.

 

So what are some saying we can use instead of “You’re so talented”:

 

  • You sound great, I really enjoyed your playing.

  • You’re so__________________

    • Inspiring

    • Enjoyable

    • Exciting

  • That solo really connected with me.

  • I bet you practice a lot.

  • Thank you for that beautiful performance.

 

The majority of people who got where they are did so because of interest (which is often facilitated by a little talent), plus hard work and maybe even some luck. But I’ll tell you that talent is never everything. Just like in sports, getting into the NFL doesn’t mean someone has made it, and that he can stop attending practice. It simply means he has just begun.

 

Because the dark side of talent is using it as an excuse for not succeeding, when all that is required for success is hard work. Talent doesn’t require courage, but work does. Dedicating hours to practice, or being brave enough to improvise with others even when you are just beginning, pushing through a difficult phrasing to master a technique. All of those have nothing to do with talent. And coincidentally, they all have everything to do with dedication and perseverance.

 

And this affects not only professional musicians, but those starting out. Do you want to learn a new instrument but feel that you are not “talented” enough? Once you replace an intangible concept of talent with something that you can control: dedication, you will see an entire world open up to you. A world of really cool experiences that you would have missed out on, thinking you didn’t have the “talent” for it.

 

What compliment would you give instead of “you’re so talented?” Share in the comments below.


If you found this post helpful and know of someone else who could benefit from it, please feel free to share the Brave by forwarding it.

How to improvise with others when you're not super confident yet

One of my closest friends and mentor is a great story teller. It doesn’t matter how many times he’s tell a story, I’m engrossed every single time. When he talks about the interesting things that he has done with his life and all the famous people that he’s played with, I’m both mesmerized and a little intimidated. We work together a lot and I worried that my story and how I tell it won’t be as interesting.

 

What I eventually realized, with a little help from a couple of close friends, was that everyone has a story, and it’s what makes each of us unique and special. There’s no competition, no one is going to win. Just as important as embracing our story, is sharing it. As musicians, we often connect with people on a more abstract level - these notes will hopefully make you feel something.

 

Sharing our stories on stage and in writing help to keep us connected. We realize that we’re not alone in our struggles and that we can help inspire with our successes.

 

I decided that I wanted to be a jazz musician around age 24. That’s really “late.” Up until that point I had intended to bring the saxophone (specifically the tenor saxophone) into the classical orchestra world. But by age 24, I had walked away from a full ride academic scholarship to the University half way through finishing a music performance degree, moved cities, became estranged from my parents (which lasted about a decade), and found myself playing in a big band at a community college while working as a file clerk at a law firm.

 

I had always played in jazz band as a kid, but was often too scared to really put myself out there, fearing that I’d make a fool of myself improvising, and everyone would find out that I was a fraud who’d been faking it this whole time. But I also loved the music and loved making things up and that kept me going.

 

After a year in a half, I decided I wanted to go back to school and finish my degree. That experience is for another post, but the next three years were full of ups and downs. I met my mentor, who changed my life and continues to influence it today. I fell in love. I got my heart broken, a couple of times. I took up the flute and ended up getting my degree using that instrument instead of saxophone.

 

I learned a lot.

But I also had some naysayers.

 

My jazz saxophone instructor told me that I should quit playing altogether. After my first jury as a flute major, the department chair called me into his office and told me that the university “might not be the right place for me” and maybe I should leave. But I was determined by that point and I’m pretty stubborn. Plus nothing motivates me more than someone telling me that it can’t be done. I was the first person in my immediate family to come close to finishing a degree, and I knew I wanted it. And frankly, I didn’t really care what anyone else thought.

 

I finished that degree.

Ten years later I went back to school and got my Masters.

 

By that time I had done just about everything you could do related to music: I taught private lessons, taught in a classroom, played in over 40 musicals, started two bands, worked in two different music stores, played for touring musicians, freelanced with rocks bands, presented at state and national conferences, played weddings and corporate events, played in a extremely creative world orchestra, got a couple of grants, organized a week worth of events with a guest artist, recorded half a CD, started a blog, became a clinician, judged festivals, taught college, created websites, and wrote a book.

 

I’ve also been fired (or not called back) for more things that I can count. Some of those people who fired me, hired me again years later, forgetting they had fired me. (Time is such an interesting filter).

 

I often get asked how I “made it”, which is such a silly term. Despite doing this for many years, I still feel like I’ve just begun. That I still have to prove myself. That I still have far to go.

 

I always answer the question with a response that sounds a little dismissive, but it’s not meant to be: I never gave up. No matter the obstacle, I tackled it head on and found the best solution. Nothing has set me back for long.

 

Truthfully, I like the challenge. I like solving problems. I like finding solutions. But even more important that all that - I love the music and I love being a musician. My parents wanted me to be a lawyer. But I couldn’t imagine myself doing anything else but being a musician.

 

Recommended inspiration: check out the book Getting There: A Book of Mentors by Gillian Zoe Segal, which shares the stories of some of the most successful people of our generation, and their struggles in defining their stories.


Now what’s YOUR story? Share an example where you bravely overcame a challenge in the comments.

Every Person has a Story - What's Yours?

One of my closest friends and mentor is a great story teller. It doesn’t matter how many times he’s tell a story, I’m engrossed every single time. When he talks about the interesting things that he has done with his life and all the famous people that he’s played with, I’m both mesmerized and a little intimidated. We work together a lot and I worried that my story and how I tell it won’t be as interesting.

 

What I eventually realized, with a little help from a couple of close friends, was that everyone has a story, and it’s what makes each of us unique and special. There’s no competition, no one is going to win. Just as important as embracing our story, is sharing it. As musicians, we often connect with people on a more abstract level - these notes will hopefully make you feel something.

 

Sharing our stories on stage and in writing help to keep us connected. We realize that we’re not alone in our struggles and that we can help inspire with our successes.

 

I decided that I wanted to be a jazz musician around age 24. That’s really “late.” Up until that point I had intended to bring the saxophone (specifically the tenor saxophone) into the classical orchestra world. But by age 24, I had walked away from a full ride academic scholarship to the University half way through finishing a music performance degree, moved cities, became estranged from my parents (which lasted about a decade), and found myself playing in a big band at a community college while working as a file clerk at a law firm.

 

I had always played in jazz band as a kid, but was often too scared to really put myself out there, fearing that I’d make a fool of myself improvising, and everyone would find out that I was a fraud who’d been faking it this whole time. But I also loved the music and loved making things up and that kept me going.

 

After a year in a half, I decided I wanted to go back to school and finish my degree. That experience is for another post, but the next three years were full of ups and downs. I met my mentor, who changed my life and continues to influence it today. I fell in love. I got my heart broken, a couple of times. I took up the flute and ended up getting my degree using that instrument instead of saxophone.

 

I learned a lot.

But I also had some naysayers.

 

My jazz saxophone instructor told me that I should quit playing altogether. After my first jury as a flute major, the department chair called me into his office and told me that the university “might not be the right place for me” and maybe I should leave. But I was determined by that point and I’m pretty stubborn. Plus nothing motivates me more than someone telling me that it can’t be done. I was the first person in my immediate family to come close to finishing a degree, and I knew I wanted it. And frankly, I didn’t really care what anyone else thought.

 

I finished that degree.

Ten years later I went back to school and got my Masters.

 

By that time I had done just about everything you could do related to music: I taught private lessons, taught in a classroom, played in over 40 musicals, started two bands, worked in two different music stores, played for touring musicians, freelanced with rocks bands, presented at state and national conferences, played weddings and corporate events, played in a extremely creative world orchestra, got a couple of grants, organized a week worth of events with a guest artist, recorded half a CD, started a blog, became a clinician, judged festivals, taught college, created websites, and wrote a book.

 

I’ve also been fired (or not called back) for more things that I can count. Some of those people who fired me, hired me again years later, forgetting they had fired me. (Time is such an interesting filter).

 

I often get asked how I “made it”, which is such a silly term. Despite doing this for many years, I still feel like I’ve just begun. That I still have to prove myself. That I still have far to go.

 

I always answer the question with a response that sounds a little dismissive, but it’s not meant to be: I never gave up. No matter the obstacle, I tackled it head on and found the best solution. Nothing has set me back for long.

 

Truthfully, I like the challenge. I like solving problems. I like finding solutions. But even more important that all that - I love the music and I love being a musician. My parents wanted me to be a lawyer. But I couldn’t imagine myself doing anything else but being a musician.

 

Recommended inspiration: check out the book Getting There: A Book of Mentors by Gillian Zoe Segal, which shares the stories of some of the most successful people of our generation, and their struggles in defining their stories.


Now what’s YOUR story? Share an example where you bravely overcame a challenge in the comments.